Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Election 2010: Excellent Article Lays Out the Animal-Related Initiatives (Potential Laws) on the Ballots in the Upcoming Election: Any in Your State??

I won’t say much here other than visit this posting at to see if any initiatives are on the ballot in your state. You'll also see that the author tells you how to vote. I’ve posted the text of the article in below as well for quicker reading, but make sure you visit the posting as well.

You’ll also notice that the blog “Animals & Politics” at is listed below. Please also visit this site for more on animal rights-related legislative initiatives.


Animal law on the ballot

Animal-related initiatives are on the ballots in several states in this upcoming election. All but one involve hunting and fishing; one concerns the breeding of dogs. Unfortunately, no initiative this year addresses the most commonly abused animals in the U.S., farm animals.

Voters in four states will be asked to vote on a constitutional right to hunt. It's difficult to know what motivates these efforts, except the need for pro-gun groups to energize their hunter members. The NRA says the amendments are needed to head off attempts to limit hunting and fishing by "well-funded anti-hunting activists." This is not a serious statement, given that gun groups have exponentially more power and resources than those few animal rights groups that target hunting.

When these initiatives do pass, as others have, it's not doomsday for hunting opponents. The provisions typically recognize the state's power to regulate---they cover the right to hunt or fish "lawfully" or say these activities are subject to regulation. Courts have treated similar provisions in other states as basically inspirational. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, for instance, has held an amendment establishing the right to hunt "does not affect our analysis of the DNR's authority."

The reasons for animal rights advocates to oppose a constitutional right to hunt are fairly miminal, though they outweigh the nonexistent benefit to animals. If any of these initiatives were voted down, it would mean that pro-hunting groups had wasted their time and money (though who knows, maybe a successful "NO" campaign would make proponents feel ever more paranoid about the alleged threat of animal rights groups). And, if there ever was an attempt to ban hunting---maybe around 2060?---these initiatives would be an impediment. On these symbolic initiatives, a symbolic NO is the way to go.

I've listed each of the ballot items below, with a recommended vote. For more election coverage, check out Animals & Politics, where Michael Markarian has been doing an excellent job, especially on the Arizona and Missouri ballot items.

Arkansas. Issue 1, if passed, would recognize a constitutional right to hunt, fish, and "harvest wildlife." It would also set these activities as the preferred method of wildlife control. The language would benefit from a comma, as a hasty reader might be shocked that "[p]ublic hunting, fishing, and trapping shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling nonthreatened species and citizens...." (The rest of the sentence makes clear humans are not in fact in danger.)

Arizona. Prop 109 would also enshrine a constitutional right to hunt and fish, and make hunting and fishing the preferred method of wildlife population control. In addition, the measure would shift the power to regulate those activities to the legislature, which may in turn, delegate it back to a commission, which presumably would keep doing what its doing. Feeling dizzy? This move contrasts with Arkansas's Issue 1, which expressly retains power for its game and fish commission, which is itself constitutionally based (see amend. 35). In a fine analysis, Kristin Borns and CJ Eisenbarth Hager point out potential problems with some vague language in the measure. Vote NO.

Missouri. Prop B sets regulations for large-scale "puppy mills," including giving dogs space to move around and to exercise. In contrast to the position of some in the debate over Prop 2 in California, it seems unlikely that the proposed regulations could increase the number of animals bred. Rather, it would reduce the scale of breeding operations and (if enforced) improve the conditions of animals being bred. Vote YES.

North Dakota. The North Dakota Constitution already has two provisions recognizing the value of hunting. Measure 2 would criminalize canned hunts of big game and "exotic animals." The measure's proponents claim it reflects "Fair Chase" principles. For folks opposed to factory farming, some of their ideas might be appealing: no breeding programs, no feeders, no government culls. People opposed to animal exploitation for food and recreation, however supposedly benign, could be less easily persuaded. For me, the question is whether fewer animals will be killed or wounded.

Supporters claim canned hunting makes all hunting look bad. Would a NO vote then reduce hunting? I doubt it. This is rare case where criminalizing an act might actually stop abuse. The proprietors of canned hunting ranches are businesspeople and, if there is enforcement, would be forced to shut down. If less canned hunting meant less hunting, I'd say to vote YES. But this is the sort of dispute, between different types of hunters, that I find difficult to find a good ethical position on.

South Carolina. Amendment 1 would recognize a right "to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife traditionally pursued." The invocation of tradition could be a loophole: it would be hard to argue hunting "traditionally" occurred with high-powered scopes, or fishing with sonar and GPS (not that any law coming down the pike would ban these tools). Vote NO.

Tennessee. An amendment to the constitution would create a "personal right to hunt and fish." Vote NO.

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